Bloomy Bridal Shower

On the last Saturday of our break, my aunt Becky and my cousin Halley (shown here on the right, with me and my mom on the left) threw me beautiful bridal shower. 

I was impressed by the decorations and pretty touches before it even started. When I told Becky that she said, "Hey, when we've showered you, you'll know it."

Watching them set up and decorate was like watching one of those TLC shows where they decorate the White House for Christmas. Everything about the shower was lovely and perfect, from the table cloth to the pasta salad to the gorgeous cupcakes form Scholar's Inn.

Mimosas with raspberries, and a heavenly cheese plate. 

That's Kira's hand and mimosa, since I stole a bunch of her photos from the shower. I'm so classy. Nice manicure, though, right?

They also ordered sandwiches from Scholar's Inn, and I enjoyed several that evening/the car ride home the next day.

Everyone at the shower was extremely generous, to the point where we couldn't fit it all in the car to take home. We did, however, make this coffee grinder a priority. It was John's most-wanted item on our registry, and it came from Lauren. John swore afterward that, in return, he will no longer make fun of Purdue. 

The shower was a great chance to hang out with some of my absolute favorite people, and I feel like it was just a fraction of how fun the wedding will be. I can't wait to hang out with all of them in the same place!
And I'm only half joking when I say that you should totally hire my cousin Halley and my aunt Becky to do your next bridal shower or other event - they made everything so easy and special that day. They are both amazing and I'm so grateful!

Reading Week 2013

Last week was our Reading Week, or Canadian "Spring" Break, so named because it won't be spring until May, and it's useless to pretend otherwise. We celebrated the week off from school by traveling to Bloomington, IN. 
John suggested stopping at Dark Horse Brewing Co. on the way down. Dark Horse is in Marshall, MI, very near the junction of I-69 and I-94, a convenient lunch stop on our route. They have a general store where they sell their own beer, brewing paraphernalia, and skate boards. John said he felt like they had a sort of f-you approach in general - you either like their beer, or you don't, and it's not their job to convince you. Beside the general store they have a brew pub with a big menu. You can see the mugs for their mug club hanging along the ceiling in this picture. 

John, looking almost maniacally happy to be at Dark Horse. 

The food was great, and we'll definitely be back. Some of the beers we tried are not available to bottle, such as the chocolate-caramel stout John's drinking in that photo. I think he really found his happy place.

Once we were in Bloomington, I took advantage of a few opportunities to saddle up the beasts and go for a walk/buy their love. Bloomington in February is still nicer than London this time of year.

We got to spend some time with our friend Mark and his girlfriend, Jessica. Here they are during the last 30 seconds of the IU-Michigan State game, which the Hoosiers narrowly won.

And also, Mario Kart. 

I mostly tried to relax and catch up on grading for the first few days of our visit, since the last few involved a lot of family and friends in town for our bridal shower (more on that to come). Once John's parents arrived, we celebrated his mom's birthday. Morgan bought her this beautiful chocolate mousse cake from Angel B's


And, you know, I took a hundred pictures of the dogs, as is my wont.

Toby loves to pose for the camera. 


Matthew's Birthday, Part 1 and Part 2

This week, London got hit with a part of winter storm Nemo, combined with some regular style lake effect snow from Lake Huron. Everything in town was closed except for UWO and London transit. I spent a snowy Friday in my office, watching it come down. 

A few days before the snow storm, we made the wild rice gratin from the Smitten Kitchen cook book. It's delicious and pretty easy to make. And perfect for snowy weather.

We picked out a recipe from Appetite for Reduction, and then for various reasons, never got around to making it. That recipe shifted to this week's menu, which will be simple because it's the last week before "spring" break.

Today is my friend Matthew's birthday! He had a whole weekend full of celebrating. 

Part one: General Population, aka, Gen Pop.

Matthew helped create Gen Pop, a monthly dance party-fundraiser for an LGBT youth group in London. This weekend was Gen Pop's one year anniversary, so Matthew baked 70 cupcakes and passed them out at the bar. His partner  (and hilariously talented comedian) Anders presented him with a lit tray of cupcakes and we all sang Happy Birthday.

Part Two: on Saturday night we had Matthew and Anders over with a few other friends for a birthday dinner. The menu: two kinds of quiche, roasted potatoes, herbed biscuits, and chocolate fondue (no pictures, because I was focused on the food). John decided to put up some robot/serial killer style flyers for decoration.

(also a reference to The Office, of course)

And now, I'm in the process of turning the left-over quiche ingredients into a breakfast casserole. 

Things are looking up this week. Only one more week until our vacation, it's going to be at least 30 degrees for several days, and by Friday, ALL THE CHOCOLATE THINGS will be on sale. As Tim Best would say, keep hope alive.


Blow, Ill Wind, Blow Away

My schedule this term is slightly crazy. I pretty much felt like this all week:

It's really not so bad, but I'm still not used to teaching as much as I have to this term. I'll admit, I'm having a tough time finding a balance between teaching and working on my dissertation. But it's good practice, since I'm signing up to do this full time, you know, for my career. I love my students (mostly) and I love my dissertation (mostly), but I'm ready for reading week. 

But I'm also not ready for reading week, because I have to submit a draft of my dissertation proposal by then, and it's far from done. 

After a full day of teaching, office hours, a staff meeting, more teaching, and planning for class on Friday, I came home and did this:  

That's no cupcake. That's bubble bath waiting to go in the tub. After a long week of writing and teaching the kiddos, it was a perfect way to end the week. Also, bonus, I planned all of next week's classes, so I should be able to have more quality time with Rameau (aka, the star of my dissertation) next week. Here's to a more balanced week.

John and our friend Ian took over the kitchen two nights in a row to make Alton Brown's recipe for Coq au Vin, and they were not disappointed. 


They paired it with a really buttery, delicious Chardonnay that I hope to find again sometime. 

John has said on occasion that he wants to learn how to cook certain meat dishes, and I've encouraged him to find a meat-eating friend and go to it. Knowing I had to come up with something easy for myself that wouldn't take up a lot of kitchen resources, I made this: 

I call it the Lazy Girl's Pizza for One. It's a pita with melted herbed havarti, sauteed mushrooms, and arugula on top. I got to eat the whole thing while they waited for their coqs (heh) to finish cooking, and they were definitely jealous. Even with coq au vin on the way, melted cheese is still tempting. 

We also made some recipes from Appetite for Reduction.
Living in the age of Twitter means that anyone can randomly get in contact with famous people, or at least bug them more directly on the internet. So I decided to tweet to Isa Chandra that we are using her book. And she replied! Here's the email notification:

**Blush**. You guys, we're friends for life now.

This week we made: 

Red Thai Tofu and Pad Thai Salad.


Y'all, this salad dressing is delightful. It's mostly ground peanuts, a little soy sauce, water, garlic, cilantro, and sriracha. Super easy, lightly spicy, and it really takes the salad up a notch. The rest of it is simple to throw together: grated carrot, red onion, bean sprouts, and cilantro. She suggests bulking it up with the tofu recipe, which was also very straight forward and probably took 30 minutes, start to finish. Ian and John took a break from the first night of coq au vin work to eat this, and they were pretty impressed. That salad will probably become a staple recipe for us.

Mom's Marinara and Tempeh-Bean Balls

Isa Chandra suggests about 10 different variations on the marinara sauce, which is just a simple tomato sauce. We tried the mushroom version, which adds about a pound of sauteed mushrooms to the sauce, once it's mostly done. John and I also added about 1.5 tbs of balsamic vinegar to the sauce and that gave it an amazing flavor. I'm sort of mixed about the bean balls. On the one hand, they are way easier and faster than homemade seitan. But we left them in the oven to stay warm while the rest of the recipe was coming together, and they dried out slightly. Fortunately, that was easy to fix by smothering them in the sauce. This one will make for good leftovers.

Last but hardly least, I made Oh She Glows, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars

If you have a food processor, then the active part of this recipe takes about 10 minutes. Then you freeze the mixture for about 15 minutes, and voila! Larabars. With chocolate in them. Just like the real deal, they have about five ingredients: cashews, dates, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. They'll be great little snacks to bring to school. 

And now, I'm off to eat dinner and cheer on the Hoosiers as they play Michigan. Let's go Big Red!